Eighteen years ago, Gi-dong Choi and Young-jun Park were preparing to graduate from Gangsan High and couldn’t have been more different. Gi-dong is the boss of the school, a rowdy troublemaker hell-bent on fun and destruction while Young-jun is the perennial school geek. During one of the class’s final field trips, Gi-dong incites a riot against a rival school, causing every class member to fight alongside him except for Young-jun. The incident causes a complete role reversal for the two, and now Gi-dong is a teacher at Gangsan while Young-jun has become a high ranking member of Korea’s largest gang. Young-jun hasn’t been back to his old town in years, but when assigned to take over the district from an unruly bar owner, he crosses paths once again with Gi-dong.
Shocked at how much their lives have changed, the two spark up a bit of a friendship after all the years apart, and since the bar owner refuses to give up his ownership, Young-jun is forced to hang around town for a while until he rectifies the situation. One night while catching up, Gi-dong gets a call that his most troubled student is in trouble again, and goes to see what all the fuss is. Once down at the police station, the two meet the student’s sister Min, who sweet talks the officer out of letting her brother go and then proceeds to beat the crap out of him in the parking lot. This display oddly attracts both men’s attentions, and they decide to vie for her attention. Gi-dong, remembering what a geek Young-jun was in high school, figures this will be an easy win, but Young-jun has been scorned in the past, and refuses to quell his advances. When Min’s little brother decides to ask Young-jun for employment and the pesky bar owner resurfaces to make some trouble, this little love triangle gets insanely complicated.
Kick the Moon is Sang-jin Kim’s follow-up to the fan-favorite Attack the Gas Station, a film I actually haven’t seen. If Kick the Moon is any indication of Kim’s work as a whole, I’m certainly missing out. I’m a big fan of Asian gangster flicks, whether it’s the Yakuza out of Japan or the Triad out of Hong Kong, and looking at some of the excellent fare that’s emerged of late from South Korea, such as Ji-woon Kim’s masterpiece A Bittersweet Life, Koreans are no slouches in the area either. And while Kick the Moon may be appear to be a gangster flick on the surface, it’s a wacked-out, nutty comedy at its heart and I must say it’s quite refreshing to watch a gangster film that’s full of laughs yet doesn’t feel hokey in the least.
An argument could be made that the ground Kick the Moon covers isn’t very original, and it’d be hard to say different. But that doesn’t make what Kim has achieved here any less impressive. He takes familiar material and refines it, molding it to his own liking and making something that actually feels fresh. It may be thanks in part to Min, a role played by Hye-su Kim. In a lot of modern South Korean cinema, the females are usually relegated to the damsel in distress, or merely served up as eye candy. In Kick the Moon however, Min is built up as a strong, stable woman that in many cases is more on track with her life than the two leads. She takes shit from no one, and seeing two guys fight over a woman that has actual substance makes the film all the more entertaining.
The dynamic between the three main characters is pretty much flawless, with all of the gags really hitting the mark and each delivering well-rounded performances, especially Sung-jae Lee and Seung-won Kim who play off of each other hilariously as they attempt to outdo one another. They really develop a lot during the runtime which shows the strength of the script. The action meshes very well with the humor; even the occasional fight that takes a serious tone doesn’t feel forced. Kim does a phenomenal job of juggling two genres and it never feels as if he’s giving one more attention than the other. Many Hollywood filmmakers should take notice: this is how you make a comedic action film. Of course, having a story as strong and intricate as this one certainly helps matters.
Coming from a guy that isn’t big on comedy films, let alone ones from another country where it may not translate well, it should say a lot about the quality of Kick the Moon that I enjoyed it so much. There’s things at work here that should please just about anyone, and if you’ve been put off by the idea that this is just another Korean comedy about trying to score a chick, you’re far off the mark. Don’t feel bad though, I was under the same assumption and am quite happy I was proven wrong. Kick the Moon is definitely worth two hours of your time.
Kick the Moon sees a UK release thanks to Third Window Films. The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks quite good. No NTSC->PAL conversion here, so everything flows nicely and looks pretty crisp, although not being progressive does hold it back a bit. In an odd move, the audio is available on in Dolby Digital 2.0; all other releases of the film have included a 5.1 mix, and with as much action going on in the film, it would have been great to have the 5.1 track here. What we get is a fine stereo treatment, but a disappointment knowing something better is out there. English subtitles are non-removable which is a little annoying, but fortunately I didn’t notice any glaring errors in spelling or grammar. Extras include a short making of which basically just shows various scenes being shot and trailers for this and other Third Window Films releases.
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